I was chatting with one of my juniors about how she wanted to spend her summer break, and she was struggling to figure out her tricky schedule. She knew that both of her parents had individual vacations planned for her and her siblings, and she would be expected to spend time helping out at her grandmother’s on weekends. With a few different things already set in stone, she knew it would be hard to get a part-time job when she wasn’t very flexible. We started talking about community service opportunities, and she seemed to perk up at the idea of doing some volunteer work, but she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
When I got off my call, my sister, a recent political science grad from American University, mentioned that she had a possible volunteer idea for my student: political campaigns. While she was in high school, my sister had routinely volunteered to make phone calls for the Obama reelection campaign – before she could even vote! And the summer after her freshman year in college, she had volunteered extensively for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, eventually being named a fellow and working to train other volunteers.
Both of her experiences volunteering on these campaigns had been incredibly satisfying and offered her significant opportunities to dig into work she cared about and network with people in a field she eventually wanted to build a career in. And all she had to do was show up at the Oakland office and ask what she could do to help. The barrier to entry for volunteering on a political campaign is typically quite low. Usually, a half-hour of training is all you need before they set you up with a list of phone numbers to call or doors to knock on.
Even if you don’t want to work in politics someday, volunteering for a political campaign is an exciting experience, where you’ll likely meet lots of other young, passionate people. With this November’s upcoming elections, there are likely plenty of offices looking for volunteers to help with the primary races, presidential campaigns, and senate campaigns. If you’re looking for something interesting and impactful – and flexible - you can do this summer, think about volunteering for a local or national candidate. They will be thrilled to have you.